contact tracing

California’s COVID-19 exposure notifications go live Thursday

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COVID-19 contact tracing is about to get easier in California.
COVID-19 contact tracing is about to get easier in California.
Photo: Brian McGowan/Unsplash CC

California will launch a COVID-19 exposure-notification system Thursday that uses smartphones to track interactions with infected people.

The state “has partnered with Google and Apple to launch a #COVID19 exposure notification app, CA Notify,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday on Twitter. “Starting Thursday, you can opt in to get push notifications on your phone if you have been exposed to COVID-19.”

Lack of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps shows limits of Apple’s power

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iOS 13.7 contact tracing feature: Life-saver, or NSA spy tool?
It's not Apple's fault. But it's certainly frustrating.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Apple and Google moved fast to develop a COVID-19 contact-tracing solution that was both smart and privacy conscious. Unfortunately, more than six months after the companies announced the cross-platform approach to contact tracing, few places in the United States use it.

It’s a tough lesson for the world’s biggest tech company. And one that everyone is a little bit poorer for having learned.

10 states now use Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API, with more on the way

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iOS 13.7 contact tracing feature: Life-saver, or NSA spy tool?
Several months later, Apple and Google's contact tracing tool is finally gaining momentum.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

More than two months after Virginia became the first state to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notifications API, a total of 10 states now distribute their own contact-tracing apps to fight COVID-19.

The two most recent — New York and New Jersey — launched their apps last week.

Apple hardware rumors come in hot and heavy [Cult of Mac Magazine 365]

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Apple rumors are coming in hot and heavy.
It's that time of year again.
Cover: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

It’s officially Apple hardware season. With new gear coming as early as next week, the rumors and leaks are coming in fast and furious. Read the latest to get an idea what to expect in the near future from iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, Apple TV and maybe even some high-end Apple headphones.

Get those rumors, plus the rest of the week’s top Apple news, how-tos and reviews, in this week’s issue of Cult of Mac Magazine. Download it to read for free on your iPad or iPhone. Or scroll below to get the headlines in your browser.

Some iPhone owners refuse iOS 13.7 update over fear of COVID-19 contact tracing

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iOS 13.7 contact tracing feature: Life-saver, or NSA spy tool?
Life-saver, or new NSA spy tool?
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Some iPhone owners are refusing to install Apple’s latest software update for fear of being tracked. iOS 13.7, which Apple released Tuesday, makes COVID-19 contact tracing easier for government health agencies to implement — but some people claim its true purpose is more sinister.

“Another step towards a totally surveillanced state,” said one iPhone user on Twitter — and many others continue to voice similar complaints and fears.

Virginia launches first US COVID-19-tracking app using Apple-Google API

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Virginia's COVIDWISE contact-tracing app uses the Exposure Notifications API developed by Apple and Google.
Contact-tracing app is now live.
Photo: Virginia Department of Health

Virginia launched its COVIDWISE contact-tracing app Wednesday, becoming the first state to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notifications API to fight COVID-19.

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy to anonymously track people’s interactions. Then it notifies users who have likely been exposed to infected individuals so they can take appropriate precautions, such as isolating themselves.

UK flip-flops on Apple and Google’s contact-tracing API, will now use it

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UK's contact-tracing app has been delayed.
Photo: World Health Organization

The U.K. government, which clashed with Apple and Google over its approach to contact tracing, has reportedly done a U-turn and will now adopt the tech giants’ privacy-conscious framework for fighting COVID-19.

The BBC reported the change of heart Thursday, one day after revealing that a former Apple executive, Simon Thompson, has taken charge of the delayed project. Thompson, who works as chief product officer at online retailer Ocado, supervised Apple’s e-commerce efforts a decade ago.

What exactly does coronavirus tracking in iOS 13.5 do? Clearing up the confusion

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contact.tracing.5
Contact tracing could help slow spread of coronavirus.
Photo: World Health Organization

iOS 13.5 dropped Wednesday, introducing a slew of upgrades — including, most notably, the API for Apple’s coronavirus contact-tracing tool, developed in conjunction with Google.

But, despite what you might hear online, this is neither an “app” or an update that means downloaders are being tracked without their knowledge. Let’s correct a few popular misconceptions.

iOS 13.5 golden master means COVID-19 exposure notifications are almost here

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iOS 13.5 golden master is available only to developers.
The iOS 13.5 golden master gives developers an early look at a number of features related to COVID-19.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Starting Monday, iOS 13.5 golden master and the iPad equivalent are available for developers to test. The general public is likely to get access to them in a week or so.

This might be known as the COVID-19 update. It includes a number of new features, almost all focused on the current crisis. That includes the coronavirus contact-tracing tool Apple is developing in cooperation with Google.

Europe doesn’t plan to make contact-tracing apps mandatory for travel

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Woolet wallet
Don't expect contact tracing apps to become the next passport.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Contact-tracing apps could play a key role in lifting border restrictions after the coronavirus pandemic — but don’t expect them to become a mandatory part of future travel. At least not in Europe.

In a European Commission document seen by Reuters, officials stress that such tools can be extremely useful “on a voluntary basis.” While the report, published Wednesday, doesn’t offer 100% confirmation, it does suggest that fears that contact-tracing apps could become a requirement of regular travel may be overblown.

Governments divided over Apple and Google’s approach to contact tracing

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contact.tracing.5
Plenty of governments are optimistic about contact tracing. But which approach to take?
Photo: World Health Organization

The battle over decentralized versus centralized contact-tracing apps continues to rage. Some public health officials feel forced to adopt Google and Apple’s Exposure Notifications system — even if they don’t necessarily think it’s the right approach, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Others are avoiding the system altogether, despite the fact that its privacy-first approach has been praised by privacy advocates.

Even before its COVID-19 app launches, UK considers switching to Apple’s contact-tracing approach

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Second thoughts on Apple/Google contact tracing by NHS?
Photo: World Health Organization

Great Britain’s National Health Service reportedly asked the developers of its COVID-19 app to investigate switching to Apple and Google’s contact-tracing approach even as its U.K. launch approaches. The move came after widespread concerns over privacy issues and battery life, according to a published report Wednesday.

iOS 13.5 beta simplifies sharing medical ID info with emergency dispatchers

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iOS 13.5 beta 4 makes sharing medical ID a snap.
With iOS 13.5, your iPhone can share medical ID info with emergency dispatchers.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhone and Apple Watch will soon make it easy to share medical ID information during emergency calls. Basic details like allergies and medications can be sent to a dispatcher during the call.

This feature appeared in iOS 13.5 developer beta 4, which debuted on Wednesday.

France threatens Apple in standoff over COVID-19 contract-tracing privacy

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Any of the new iPhones can handle the worst rainstorm.
France plans to go it alone on COVID-19 contact tracing for mobile phones.
Photo: Apple

A French official accused Apple on Tuesday of hampering the effectiveness of the country’s COVID-19 contract-tracing platform by blocking access to data via Bluetooth.

France minister for digital technology Cedric O told BFM Business TV that Apple “could have helped us make the application work even better on the iPhone. They have not wished to do so.”

Apple and Google’s contract-tracing system to ban Location Services access

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New guidelines are meant to help developers create easy-to-understand contact tracing apps.
Photo: Apple/Google

Apple and Google released additional details about their coronavirus contact-tracing system Monday, informing public health officials that they will not be able to use Location Services to track people. The companies also said they will limit use of the contact-tracing API to one per country.

Both companies also showed off what an app might look like on people’s smartphones — and shared sample pieces of code local governments could use in their own mobile apps.

New iOS beta brings first look at Apple’s COVID-19 contact-tracing API

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iPhone showing coronavirus that causes COVID-19
iPhones will help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that’s the cause of Covid-19.
Photo: Cult of Mac/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The third beta of iOS 13.5 released on Wednesday gives developers their first look at the coronavirus contact-tracing tool that Apple is creating in cooperation with Google.

iPadOS 13.5 Developer Beta 3 was also debuted today, along with the initial beta of Xcode 11.5.

How Apple and Google became unlikely allies in fight against COVID-19

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Apple and Google's contract-tracing app could prove crucial to fighting COVID-19.
Insiders detail how Apple and Google created a COVID-19 contact-tracing system in just weeks.
Photo: Timon Studler/Unsplash CC

A handful of Apple and Google employees turned a novel approach to fighting COVID-19 from a spark of an idea to a pandemic-fighting tool in less than a month. The tech giants combined forces in March, intent on creating a contact-tracing app capable of monitoring the movements of people who might have come in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

CNBC reported inside details Tuesday on how Apple’s initial contact-tracing project — code-named “Bubble” — went from two employees to dozens, and enlisted the help of others at Google.

Spy firms push iPhone-hacking tools to trace coronavirus, raising privacy concerns

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Systems like that from Cellebrite are now being pushed to track COVID-19, but have serious privacy concerns.

Multiple companies that created software to hack into mobile phones now offer versions of their products to trace the spread of COVID-19, according to a published report Tuesday.

Very different from contact-tracing technologies that focus on finding the virus but at the same time protect privacy, these new systems would not need a patient’s consent to gain entry into the device.

UK rejects Apple/Google COVID-19 contact-tracing system

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The UK's National Health Service won’t use Apple/Google tech to warn users if they've recently been in contact with someone infected with coronavirus.
Photo: NHS

The U.K. reportedly decided to go with a coronavirus contact-tracing application different from the system Apple and Google are creating jointly. The National Health Service built an app that creates a central database of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Apple and Google solution uses a decentralized system for privacy reasons.

Senator wants Tim Cook to take personal responsibility for contact-tracing data privacy

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Senator Hawley is concerned about Apple and Google's privacy for contact-tracing data.
Photo: Apple/Google

Sen. Josh Hawley wants Apple and Google to have some skin in the game when it comes to keeping data private in their joint coronavirus contact-tracing project. Hawley’s idea? That the Apple and Google CEOs — Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, respectively — should take personal responsibility for ensuring the data is kept private.

“If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” the Republican senator from Missouri wrote Tuesday in a letter to Cook and Pichai. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy, such as by granting advertising companies access to the interface once the pandemic is over.”

Apple restrictions block France’s contact-tracing iPhone app

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Brace yourself for beautiful pictures. iPhone XS and XS Max pack the best cameras yet.
Apple's new platform just won't cut it.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

France is calling on Apple to loosen its Bluetooth restrictions on iPhone that are said to be holding back a government contact-tracing app designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Apple currently prevents iOS apps from using Bluetooth connectivity in the background under certain circumstances. Its policy blocks France from moving forward with its app, a Tuesday report reveals.

ACLU wants COVID-19 tracking program loaded with privacy safeguards

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Privacy groups want to make sure contact tracing technology keeps your data safe.
Photo: MIT Lincoln Lab

The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday it is cautiously encouraged by a commitment to privacy by Apple and Google as they develop Bluetooth-based contact-tracing technology to track the spread of COVID-19.

But the civil liberties group says the two tech giants must resolve “certain important privacy-related questions” key to winning trust from a public growing wary about who sees their data.

Apple, Google detail coronavirus contact tracing system with privacy at its core

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Apple Google
Apple & Google gives specifics of their contact tracing system it is developing to better track and protect people from COVID-19.
Photo: Apple/Google

Apple and Google have given further details on their plans for a joint contact tracing technology to combat coronavirus, saying the program will focus on privacy, will be voluntary, and that data will only be shared with public health organizations.